Today is the day I have finally been waiting for all of my adult life. I am finally being uncuffed and released into the world, which for what felt like a thousand lifetimes, I could only dream about. It feels so surreal, almost like I am dreaming except that the smells, the colors, the realization that I can walk pass those barbed-wire fences without getting a bullet in the back of my head, make it that much more satisfying. I have been through so many challenges living as a prisoner and ward of the state in the last nearly thirteen years, that sometimes I wonder how I even survived it all. Solitary confinement for a total of three years, the constant dehumanization, not being able to see my daughter who was born two days prior to my arrest a life time ago; all of which would break a weaker person; yet here I am today doing the George Jefferson walk past the metal gates of freedom.
In the beginning, I remember not being able to fathom how I would complete a fifteen year sentence for robbery. When I received the first ten years in Manhattan I stared out the window of the bullpen I was held in after seeing the judge and could not control the water leaving my eyes and traveling down my twenty-one year old face. The pain and confusion was unbearable. I could not understand or grasp how, or better yet, why I would place myself in such an impossible predicament. Right at that moment, at that very second, promised myself that I would not only do my time in prison, but that I would see this as an opportunity to work on myself myself and attempt to become the best version of myself. JohnnyBoy had to die and Johnny Perez had to emerge in his place. Now, today, I am walking out a better man than when officer Mackenzie captured me, hogtied me , and brought me to the 46th precinct in the Bronx while saying ‘look what I caught’.
I hope that I never forget all the pain that I have been through and more importantly all the pain that I have caused because God help me if I do.
-Written September 19th, 2013 9:01 am
Welcome to my website. The above is an actual journal entry from my journal which i wrote hours after my release from Bare Hill Correctional facility after completing 12 years, 10 months, and 9 hours in prison from the age of twenty one years old. It is the wisdom, the pain, the questions i asked myself during that journey which has equipped me to create new statistics and accomplish what I once could not even imagine.
People always wonder how does a person work up the nerve to rob someone else. The truth is there are series events which occur long before the decision to gamble with your life becomes a reality. See, for years I felt powerless, over circumstances, other people, shit, even myself. But when Fast Eddie let me wrap my teenage fingers around the handle of a gun, it transformed me little by little just like the black suit did to Peter Parker in Spiderman! Small incremental changes make for an astronomical transformation over a period of time. Isn’t that the bases for geology? Well, before I knew it I was so deep into my criminality that my mother once gazed deep into eyes and whispered, “Give me back my son!”
The criminal lifestyle only leads to three places: Prison, physical death, or symbolic death. The first is the lesser consequence of the three, yet some people would prefer the latter over prison. The second is the ultimate consequence, irreversible, avoided, and highly likely. The third is the most common of all because it can take many forms. A man sentenced to fifty years in prison is just as good as dead. the same goes for a man who decides to, “shoot it out with the police if they ever come”. A person applying criminal solutions to their problems cannot change these consequences no more than he can change the number of stars in the sky, and trust me, he will try! However, behind every story of failure, pain, and falls from grace, there is an equally inspiring story of redemption, triumph, and greatness.
I was born in Havana Cuba in 1979 at the height of Fidel Castro’s reign over the country. A year later, after given the opportunity to start a new life in a new country, my mother (only 18 years old at the time) migrated here to the U.S. She carried my one year-old self in her arms leaving all of our family behind.
I don’t know exactly when it was that I was seduced by the same streets that ended up raising me, but I know I was young. Maybe eleven or twelve. My first crimes involved stealing cars for joy riding. We would steal them and use them until the gas ran out before stealing another one to get us wherever we were headed. By “we,” I mean my friends and me. After a few stints in D.F.Y. (Division for Youth), I eventually stopped stealing cars, and had moved on to selling drugs. In a sense, I fooled myself into believing that I was doing something different when, in all actuality, I was doing the same thing in a different way. Years later I would learn that Albert Einstein defined insanity this way.
Selling drugs was something I did to buy myself the expensive clothes that I valued so much, and that my mother could not afford on a McDonald’s salary. I could never tell how much the experience of helping people kill themselves has affected me, but I suspect that at the time I lost a bit of my soul along with every nickel bag of inhumanity that I sold.
Eventually the relationship between my mother and I deteriorated and I ran away (it wasn’t the first time). Being homeless at thirteen years old I gave in to the allure of a criminal lifestyle completely. I had no supervision, no responsibilities, and only the influence of my so called friends would help me navigate the labyrinth that is the streets. Combined with the fascination of expensive cars, flashy jewelry, and all the trappings that my role models on the corner so proudly displayed; it wasn’t long before I became a “threat to public safety.”
For as long as I could remember I continued to believe that I could get away with committing crimes despite all the contradictory evidence I faced daily. At one point I was arrested and released almost every month for about a year. But just like an addict that develops a tolerance for drugs, I developed the same tolerance for crime. What was difficult to do at one time, had become easy. Eventually I began to carry guns, and forcibly taking other people’s property.
On November 28th, two days after my daughter was born, I was arrested for armed robbery in the 1st degree. A year later I was sentenced to 15 years in a NYS prison. I was 21 at the time.
During my stay in prison I developed a relationship with myself. When you’re locked in a cell by yourself long enough with no one to talk to, eventually you’ll end up having conversations with yourself. There was no escaping from the demons that had constantly chased me, and I could no longer hide behind a haze of marijuana smoke. As a result, I had to face the person I had become. I remember becoming disgusted with myself for the way I treated my family, friends, complete strangers, and for becoming the opposite of what my mother had hoped for me so many years prior.
There are three events that have forever changed the trajectory of my life: Falling asleep in my future girlfriend’s building’s hallway while I sold crack; placing a gun to the head of a cashier in a convenience store in Harlem, NY; and reading As A Man Thinketh written by the great philosopher James Allen. Once I learned that I, and only I, was in complete control of my actions; and that no one, thing, or circumstance, was responsible for how my life was turning out, then the world shifted.
I began to read every book I could get my hands on, and eventually signed up for the prison’s college program. Through education I began to see opportunities, where before I only saw challenges; stepping stones where before I only saw road blocks; and I began to see things in the world that I would have never fathomed existed, although they’ve been in my face my entire life. Inside that cramped 8 by 10 foot cell I argued the meaning of life with Socrates, marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr., mourned with Holocaust survivors, compared cheese cake recipes with Martha Stewart, and cried with Trayvon Martin’s mother!
As of this writing it has been three years since I was locked in that human cage staring at the barbed wire fence I dreamed of one day never seeing again. So much has changed……
And the only thought that constantly invades my mind is “I am not the man I should be, I’m also not the man I need to be, and neither am I yet the man that I know I could be, but thanks God that I’m not the man I used to be!!!” For this reason: JUSTICE IS MY PASSION